To see a video of Erin Martin and Angela Platt crossing the finish line Saturday at the Chocolate Run 5K Run/Walk, go to Open Hearts Community Mission Facebook page.
The Second Annual Chocolate 5K Run/Walk had ended successfully with a whopping $25,000 raised for Open Hearts Community Mission for the homeless of Statesboro and Bulloch County. Participants and volunteers were back home; media and paparazzi were relinquished of duties, and city workers were ready to reopen downtown streets for traffic.
But two walkers remained steadfast on the course. One had no original intention of walking; the other had every intention of completing the journey, no matter how long it took. That journey would take two hours.
Erin Martin, a Georgia Southern University graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in English, registered as a participant after church friends posted information online. Unaware of plans for a local homeless shelter, Martin wanted to support the event.
With the assistance of crutches, Martin began the race. Runners whizzed past and walkers trekked toward the goal. The distance widened between Martin and other participants, but she didn’t care.
“I decided when I started that I was going to finish it,” she said.
Born with cerebral palsy, Martin displays the fortitude of one who is not used to giving up.
“My mom has mentioned before that I do stuff because people haven’t told me I can’t,” she said.
And no one attempted to tell her she couldn’t complete the race. Especially not her friend from Bible study, Angela Platt.
Platt, who found excuses not to walk, wanted to support the event and registered as a volunteer. Posted near the first stretch of the race, she directed participants and waved encouragingly to those she knew.
“Erin was the last one, and there was a sizeable gap between her and other participants,” Platt said. “When I saw her, I admired her determination and felt like kicking myself for not signing up to walk. I couldn’t let her walk by herself.”
Leaving her post, Platt asked Martin if she could join her and, with water bottle in hand, one friend joined another on the journey.
With plenty of time for conversation, the friends talked “a little bit about everything,” Platt said. Grad school – Platt is pursuing a master’s degree in the school counselor track of the GSU’s Counseling Education Program – Bible study and cerebral palsy.
“Her spirit was joyful the entire time,” Platt said of her friend. “She never complained. She was determined. It was inspirational for me.”
Delia Mobley, the chairwoman of the Open Hearts Community Mission, was also inspired. Once she was made aware of the pair continuing to walk, she and husband, Chip, ran to check on them.
“Erin was fine and insisted on finishing, and she had her college friend with her,” Mobley said. “So we ran back to round up any volunteers that were left to be her cheering squad. We had the band still playing above Sugar Magnolia to do a shout-out to her as she finished. It was beautiful.
“We began cheering as she came into sight,” she continued, “and you could see her pick up her pace and she was grinning from ear to ear.”
Volunteers and church friends who’d waited patiently cheered, applauded and congratulated when the two crossed the finish line. With tears in her eyes, Mobley said she was reminded of the verse in Acts 20:24: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.”
In words that could have applied to Martin’s walk or the homeless shelter’s journey, Mobley said: “It reminds us what we can accomplish with determination and that God provides strength for us when we trust Him.”